Monthly Archives: July 2016

Venice markets and a food tour..

The band is playing, the seagull is watching……it must be market day in Venice!

 

IMG_2684 (1024x805)

In May we spent a month in Italy, and I’ve finally sorted most of the photos ready for a few posts on Italian gardens, and some markets.

Paul and I are interested in growing food, and we enjoy seeing food at local markets when we are travelling.

IMG_2187 (1024x898)

The markets are behind the stairs.

The Rialto markets of Venice (a fish market and a produce market) were built long before the Rialto Bridge was in place.

These Markets keep up the tradition of all good markets; that food is much better grown locally, and eaten fresh and in season.

IMG_2314 (1024x885)

The fruit and vegetables are carefully displayed and clearly marked, a perfect opportunity to learn the names of vegetables in Italian, at the same time as buying the produce!

IMG_2307 (1024x753)

Much of the fresh food is grown on the island of Sant’Erasmo…look at the amazing white Bassano asparagus.

IMG_2308 (1024x740)

The purple Sant ‘Erasmo artichokes are very popular too.

IMG_2313 (1024x786)

Our guide, Francesca, explains that only the white inner part of this artichoke is used for cooking.

IMG_2322 (964x1024)

 

IMG_2426 (1024x922)

This happy market worker is cutting the artichokes up, and putting the white part into water, for later sales.

There are not many Venetians still living in Venice itself, and so locals all seem to know each other. In the Italian way, there is plenty of talk and laughter and good humour. Francesca has lived in Venice most of her life and considers herself very lucky. As she says, she can walk everywhere and never has a traffic jam going to work! (she says she knows how to dodge the crowds)

IMG_2323 (1024x798)

The Piscaria (fish market) was re-built in 1907, and we had heard that sustainable fishing is an old tradition in Venice. The marble plaques show regulations set centuries ago for minimum allowed size for lagoon fish.

IMG_2309 (1024x760)

The fish is glistening with sea water it is so fresh..

IMG_2310 (1024x783)

Mackerel

IMG_2326 (1024x810)

This was our first food tour in Italy, and Francesca guided us towards a tiny bar, full of delicious cicheti (small snacks like mini Panini), and of course, a glass of Prosecco.

IMG_2318 (850x1024)

I had some small artichoke balls, seen on the top of the counter, and they were delicious!

At our next stop we were offered Panini with some traditional serving of Baccala ( a dried salted cod mixture) and a variety of meats, artichoke, olives, anchovy, chilli, mixed vegetables, and beans.

IMG_2328 (1024x834)

The shop window had an intriguing array of herbs and spices, all artistically arranged on the plates.

IMG_2327 (1024x536)

We went to a restaurant for lunch and had black pasta made with the ink from squid.

It is testimony to the lovely food and good company on the tour, that I was too busy eating and talking to take photos of this!

The charm of Venice is not just the water and canals, but the small tempting restaurants, often tucked down alleyways, away from the crowds.

IMG_2188 (1024x851)

One thing we learnt quickly in Italy, Italians love to eat, socialise, and celebrate life…

….salute to that!

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved

 

 

 

Reflection on last summer’s garden….sometimes you just get lucky…

July is a very dreary winter month in Canberra, and it seems a perfect time to look back at photos of the garden over the spring and summer months of 2015/2016. This might give some inspiration for the coming spring…

IMG_6195 (1024x768)

In Canberra sweet peas need to be planted around my birthday, mid-March. My father-in-law was an enthusiastic gardener and he always reminded me to plant them.

IMG_6306 (1024x836)

Sweet peas also remind me of my Mum who loved all flowers and growing things, but sweet peas were one of her favourites.

I think of them both in a companionable way when I am in the garden…

IMG_6305 (1024x1003)

During the summer I read a little book called ”Six Square Metres” by Margaret Simons. Margaret is a journalist and gardening enthusiast, and some years ago, she wrote a thoughtful, often humorous, gardening column in The Australian newspaper.

One of her quotes sums up a season of gardening….(and our year of gardening)

Sometimes you reap what you sow.

We certainly did that last summer, this pea crop went on for months, above and beyond the call of duty…

IMG_6153 (1024x961) (2)

Sometimes you reap what other people sowed..

We bought this tomato as a sapling at the markets in spring. It is called ”Mortgage Lifter” and the tomatoes grow to an enormous size. Every few weeks Paul and I would put more stakes in for reinforcement as the plant grew bigger and the tomatoes grew wider. The beauty of this tomato is that it is very juicy, with a wonderfully rich flavour. I made tomato puree with the left over tomatoes in February, and now we add them to soups and stews. A taste from our own summer garden in winter.

IMG_8407 (1024x911)

Sometimes you haven’t got a clue what you are sowing.

….at the markets in spring I thought I was buying a new kind of chard with lovely purple stalks…and it was beetroot! I can’t believe I’m admitting to this….

IMG_8402 (840x1024)

and sometimes you just get lucky.

….this Gardenia really does not like the Canberra climate, especially the cold weather. This year we nursed it through the winter and then gave it plenty of fertilizer in spring and summer, and now some beautiful, perfectly formed scented flowers…

IMG_8172 (1024x705)

We were very lucky to have an abundance of tomatoes, and the best garlic in three years of trying to get it right..

IMG_2795 (1024x914)

 

IMG_7487 (1024x768)

 

or unlucky….

IMG_1733 (1024x740)

Much as I love the cockatoos, they sometimes just come by to pick the top off a rose stem, very very annoying…….. ”Who me?”

IMG_8108 (1024x882)

All these things are true of life, as of gardening…

I hope this year has been a lucky one for you and your garden…

 

 

 

Birds in a winter Canberra garden…

 

IMG_1141 (1024x777)

It is always a delight to see birds like the Eastern Spinebill in the garden. They are the smallest of the Honeyeaters in Australia and a treat to watch.

IMG_1140 (1024x959)

We have planted more and more Pineapple Sage near the deck in our back garden, and this year the flowers lasted well into winter.

Now we can hear the strong call of the Eastern Spinebills on a winter morning…they are very welcome!

IMG_1138 (1024x779)

The Canberra Ornithologists Group has a useful and easy to read book called ”Birds of Canberra Gardens”. It has beautiful photos of all the birds in this area.

IMG_4293 (1024x834)The bird on the front cover is a Gang Gang Cockatoo, and it is my dream to get a photo of one of these parrots one day!

Paul took this lovely photo of our resident male Superb Fairy Wren….. isn’t he a charmer?

The Superb Fairy Wren is a local species of Fairy Wren, and has adapted well to Canberra conditions.

IMG_4121 (1024x611)

The Pied Currawong is also very common in the Canberra region. They are magnificent flyers, and can fly across the garden in a few graceful sweeps and land on a tiny branch or wire.

Pied Currawong (C) Harry Charalambous 2014 www.birdlife.org.au

Pied Currawong (C) Harry Charalambous 2014 www.birdlife.org.au

They are efficient and intelligent predators for the little birds gathering in our garden. Over time, Paul and the currawongs have reached a truce;  they have strictly flying rights only over the garden…no settling into bushes and on wires to watch and hunt little birds. We live near Mt Taylor where they can hunt in their natural environment.

Grey Currawong (C) William Betts 2015 www.birdlife.org.au

However, while we were on holiday the Currawongs enjoyed the lack of supervision, and had a touch of Oppositional Defiance Disorder when we got home. This is a well used photo I know, but so expressive!

The Crested Pigeons are found in most gardens in Canberra….they seem to love sitting on the overhead wires of gardens, huddled together in winter

IMG_3327 (1024x593)

Baby its cold outside..

….are they on the alert for predators? Not in Canberra I suspect..

IMG_1723 (1024x675)

The description of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo in the Birds of Canberra book begins

..”they are very conspicuous, noisy and gregarious birds commonly seen in Canberra gardens…. ”

What a perfect description of these birds!

One of our resident Cockatoos was sitting on the carport roof waiting to greet us when we got back from Italy.

IMG_4078 (1024x804)

”Oh Hi! You’re back…..just let me finish eating the almonds and I’ll show you what we’ve done in the front garden

”We’ve stripped the Iron Bark Eucalypt of almost all its flowers….the nectar was nice..”

IMG_4064 (1024x672)

and the whole street is littered with small branches…it looks as if a shredding machine has been through the street….

IMG_4066 (1024x849)

Canberra’s suburban streets are lined with corridors of natural bushland and so the Cockatoos and other wild birds have a choice of homes

IMG_4158 (1024x768)

This hollow has been a nesting place for young cockatoos over the years…

IMG_2264 (1024x818)

Australian Magpies are described as;

”boldly marked, confiding and abundant, one of Australia’s best known birds. They feed on  insects and other invertebrates on lawns and open ground, and may become tame if fed.

Here is one of our local Magpies….the water baby, regardless of the weather!

IMG_4107 (1024x675)

Look at this industrious Magpie…is she collecting bits for a nest already? In mid-July?

IMG_4149 (1024x959)

In spring I hope to bring you more photos of some of the many birds in Canberra gardens.

…… in the meanwhile, enjoy the birds in your neighbourhood where ever you live.

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Lanyon Homestead in Winter

When we left Canberra in May, the last month of autumn colour was still with us..

 

After an exciting month in Italy, we arrived back in Canberra at the beginning of June.

Winter cometh!

After some dreary rainy days (but we always need rain!) I have to remind myself that there is another side to Canberra winters…bright blue skies.

Last July we visited an historic homestead close to where we live in Canberra, the Lanyon homestead..

IMG_3395 (1024x797)

The homestead is ringed by the Brindabella Mountains and sits at the heart of a natural bowl shaped valley. This scenery takes my breath away, no matter how many times I see it.

This land has layers of rich history from surviving Aboriginal heritage sites, through to unbroken pastoral use since European settlement.

The land was granted to James Wright and  John Lanyon in 1834. At that time the journey from Sydney took several weeks by bullock wagon over rough tracks. The farm land was so isolated that the farmers of the time had to be completely self-sufficient.

IMG_3374 (1024x734)

Andrew and James Cunningham bought Lanyon in 1849 and built the homestead over time. The house remains almost completely unchanged since 1859.

IMG_0987 (1024x725)

The original out-buildings around the homestead include a kitchen, cellar, laundry, worker’s barracks, a meat house and dairy stables, harness room and a blacksmith’s shop.

IMG_3376 (1024x768)Despite the green and blue hues of this land today, in 2003 Lanyon homestead was under real threat as wind and fire raged over these mountains. I have read that there was only one fire engine available for Lanyon as the fires were so widespread. Miraculously the property survived.

IMG_3392 (1024x768)

Today the house is a museum and there are picnic areas and a café in the grounds.

Weddings, plant fairs, historical events and social activities go on all year in these lovely gardens.

The flower and vegetable gardens are a treat to see in spring and summer, indeed Lanyon homestead deserves to be seen in every season. (I’ll be back!)

IMG_3397 (1024x768)

The Bunya Pine became fashionable and, as with many homesteads in Australia, there is one planted here, quite close to the house.

IMG_3375 (648x1024)

And you won’t be surprised to know that when Mr Big Personality has finished stripping the flowers and branches off the Ironbark eucalypts in our street, he’ll be off to Lanyon to strip the Bunya Pine of its Bunya Nuts…..

IMG_4061 (1024x906)

That is the ying and yang of living in a bush capital city!

Have a happy weekend, whether it be winter or summer in your part of the world.